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Five Surprising Wine Pairings for Everyday Foods

Food and wine pairing is a topic that is somehow both incredibly complex and completely simple at the same time. Complex because there can be so many different nuances that go into creating a fabulous pairing. Simple because when it comes right down to it, the ultimate question is: “Does it taste good to you?”

A few years ago, I had some leftover bottles from a tasting and I gave one to my friend Robin. A few days later I asked her if she had liked the wine. She told me she had and that it had been especially enjoyable with dinner. When I asked her about the food, she hesitated. She told me she was embarrassed to tell, because she thought I might not think it was “fancy” enough for wine. It turns out, they had sipped the wine with hot dogs.

Well, the truth of the matter is, whether you are an expert or a beginner, meals don’t have to be fancy to make them wine-worthy. Here are a few examples of everyday simple, but tasty, pairings.

Hot Dogs and Côtes du Rhône   I discovered this pairing thanks to Robin, and it’s brilliant. Côtes du Rhône wines, typically a blend of Syrah and Grenache, are medium bodied with aromas and flavors of cherries, spices, pepper and earth. Approachable and affordable, these are wines that are also very food-friendly. They are a terrific match for hot dogs but also work with sausages and brats. This is a great choice for cookouts or casual weekday dinners.

Mac ‘n Cheese and Red Burgundy   My friend Jill makes the best Mac ‘n Cheese I have ever had. One night after a particularly rough week, she dropped off a batch at my house (talk about a great friend). I had a bottle of Pinot Noir from Burgundy on hand and figured why not try them together. Jill uses Gruyère cheese and its slightly earthy, rich flavor turned out to be a delicious partner for the Pinot Noir. This is now one of my go-to comfort food pairings!

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Champagne   This might come as a surprise, as Champagne has a “special occasions-only image”, but it is one of the most food-friendly and versatile wines out there. I stumbled upon this one during a food/wine pairing experiment with a friend, and it was my favorite match. I think the main reason was the texture of the pairing – the crunch of the sandwich and the refreshing frothiness of the Champagne combined for a delicious explosion in my mouth. Now, this is a combo I serve at parties – or whenever I need a pick-me-up.

Meatloaf and Rioja   Growing up, meatloaf was forbidden in my house. My father made my mother promise to never make it – unless she wanted a divorce (I kid you not). Since my own husband is a fan, I’ve since learned to make it. Rioja, a Spanish wine made predominantly from the Tempranillo grape, typically has notes of berry fruits, tobacco and toast. These flavors are a great match for the spice and herb notes of the meatloaf. I’ve never tried to make it for my Dad, but I think even he might go for this combination.

Brownies and Banyuls   I love chocolate and make it a point to meet my daily requirements (it is good for you!). While just a small piece of dark chocolate will suffice, when I am really in the mood for dessert, I find that there is nothing better than a brownie and a glass of Banyuls. Banyuls, a sweet wine made from Grenache, comes from the Roussillon region in the South of France. It is a little like Port, but typically lower in alcohol and with softer tannins. There are few wines that make a better match for chocolate. Trust me – I’ve done extensive research on the subject!

These are just some of my favorites – what about you? Do you have a favorite simple dish you like to pair with wine? Or do you have an old standby that you would like to pair with a wine but you aren’t sure which one? Leave your thoughts below and I’ll get back to you!